Compassion and Acceptance in the Online Classroom
The more we learn about each other, the more we learn about the world. That statement holds true in the online classroom, where students don’t see each other but are able to form connections, join clubs, and discuss their personal lives with classmates. The bonds formed between long distance learners are strongest when students feel welcomed and accepted.
For Ashford University students in the LGBT community, acceptance begins when they first log into the classroom.
“A lot of times in the entry point courses we have students disclose sexual orientation in their introductions and throughout their discussion posts,” said Ashford Assistant Professor Dr. Wendy Conaway. “Whenever they do disclose this information, I fully embrace it. I show them that they are supported. I show them that they’re part of our community.”
In a discussion of LGBT issues with Ashford’s Promoting Awareness and Wellness in Students team, Dr. Conaway explained how her views were shaped by experiences with her oldest son, who came out in his mid-20s.
“As a mother I instinctually knew that he would eventually come out at some point, but I had to be ready until he was ready to fully commit to his true self,” she said. “So once he did he was much happier, and I was much happier because I knew he was going to be able to get on with his life at that point.”
An understanding of sexual orientation, Dr. Conaway said, helps people become comfortable with those who lead different lives. As in any community, acceptance is an important part of LGBT student life, and issues of sexuality are openly discussed in online student groups, discussion posts, and in the classroom.
“Education is the key. People fear the unknown and what they perceive as different,” she said. “If we focus on dispelling the myths that create apprehension and fear, [we will] help everyone realize those myths are just those. They are myths. The reality is, people are people.”
Written by Ashford University staff.